Monday, March 28, 2011
More on the Difference Between Awareness and Consciousness
May I respectfully suggest that most of the current problems in psychotherapy today lie in the inability to differentiate between awareness and consciousness; thus, the cognitivists and insight therapist believe that if the patient is aware she will make progress. And I suggest that awareness has little to do with progress unless you are happy to get well from the neck up and leave the body behind.
So, let’s define things: awareness involves the last evolved neurologic system, the neocortex where ideas, beliefs and perceptions lie. Consciousness involves the three levels of consciousness, the three key brain systems working in harmony and fluidity. Consciousness involves all of us and particularly our history. Awareness is ahistoric and since we are historic beings we cannot hope to get well if we leave our past behind; if we ignore our history and what happened to us from our life in the womb onward.
When we rely on awareness we are dealing with a thin sliver of brain function, disconnected from physiologic processes which areprimal the motor for how and what we think. Thinking and beliefs (which is what we are asked to do in cognitive therapy, believe the therapy and therapist) are ultimately malleable and change with the wind; not so with lower brain processes which involved survival, and should not be so malleable. When we rely on awareness we are avoiding our life blood, our feelings; that is what makes us feeling human beings.
Why is feeling so important? When we speak of “quality of life,” we are dealing with feeling. So we have one brain, the left, that is fragmented and the other that sees the whole. To become whole we must manage to recruit the fragments of our lives into a complete picture; for that we need both brains hemispheres working in harmony. That is one definition of consciousness and its differentiation from awareness. In therapy we see how this works when after a feeling, the patient will begin a litany of, “That’s why I did this and why I did that.” The fragmented behavior begins to make total sense. It has a gestalt context—consciousness out of unconsciousness.
The Problem with Left Brain-Centered Psychotherapy:
Unfortunately, we tend to glorify left brain awareness to the neglect of the right feeling brain. We expect the left brain to fight our battles, particularly, the internal enemies. We do this without taking into account that left-brain development came into being much later in evolutionary history than the right brain, and in each of our individual lives, in part as a means of disengaging us from the other side. One kind of brain tissue cannot do the work of another. The left brain developed different abilities to avoid a redundancy between left and right. The left brain’s activity helps soothe and calm us. It allowed and continues to allow us to defend against feelings that were too much to bear. We use the left hemisphere to rationalize a hurt or insult so it won’t create so much pain. Or at the mercy of needs of which we may be only dimly aware, the left brain can superimpose all kinds of needs onto a romantic object and imagine her to be wonderful, only to be disappointed two years down the line because it didn’t see reality. It didn’t listen to the right because communication was either reduced or non-existent. When perception is detached from need and feeling, we misperceive. For instance, if we need a strong protector, we will overlook the other person’s weaknesses and ignore his flaws. We "see" protection where it may not exist, or we get protection accompanied by total domination.
It is difficult to know what is real about humans if we take words alone as a sign of reality.
The left frontal area is also where we conjure up or embrace beliefs(*). Insights given by a therapist are ultimately beliefs to soothe and ease pain. So of course the therapy patient feels better after a session. She has knocked down painful feelings; that is one of the key roles of the top level neocortex—suppress feelings. Indeed, the words of a therapist, no matter whether right or wrong, can be soothing to our agonies. It is not only the content of what the therapist says, but just his words offered in soothing tones. Oddly enough, that tone affects the right brain, not the left. The content of the insight remains in the left. We can be fooled into thinking that the content of an insight is what makes us feel better, but in reality it is the reassuring tone, all along. It dampens right side pain, the pain of a father who never cared, was never soft, and whose tone was unrelentingly harsh. The therapist’s presence says, “I’m here now. It’s going to be all right.” Just being in his office can make us feel better. In other words, the left side allows us to be partially oblivious to ourselves. This is particularly egregious when it comes to psychotherapy, which traditionally has been left brain focused for over 100 years.
It is now apparent, due to an abundance of new research, that psychotherapy must address the right brain and consider how to affect right-left brain connections—as this is the way feelings become integrated. Psychotherapy must work to help not only ourmental state but our entire neuro-physiologic system. This is the difference between dealing with words (left brain) and the use of images, scenes, and feelings (right brain). The former is what occurs when we “reflect” on our past, while genuine emotional retrieval, which is what is needed for integration and genuine healing, requires access to the right brain feeling structures. Once again we see that it is not possible to use ideas and thinking processes, which literally came along millions of years later in brain development to affect what is lower in the brain, and developed millions earlier.
(*) The right frontal area is as involved as the left, although the contributions to the ideas are different. The right will tend to “like” grander ideas.
Review of "Beyond Belief"
This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer
Quotes for "Life Before Birth"
“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine
Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University
Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University
In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction
An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System
A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University
"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH
His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.